#MMIR Activism: An update since COVID-19 and the 2020 Presidential Election

By | November 30, 2021

This week, in a series of blog takeovers, we’re looking at #MeToo and Literary Studies with posts from the collection’s contributors.

Guest post by Dr. Kasey Jones-Matrona

In September 2021, Gabby Petito was reported missing. As a white woman victim of intimate partner violence, Petito’s case received national coverage, the average Tiktok user posted conspiracy theories about her disappearance, and Dog the Bounty Hunter traveled to Florida in search of Brian Laundrie—the boyfriend who allegedly murdered her. This sensationalizing of violence against women, especially as it intersects with popular culture true crime obsession, warrants its own commentary. However, my larger concern is how women of color often receive little-to-no coverage whatsoever when they are abducted, reported missing, or found dead, especially with a proven epidemic of violence against Indigenous women. This critical commentary on missing white woman syndrome does not diminish the tragic story of Gabby Petito. Rather, it conveys the urgent need for the lives of Indigenous women, non-binary, trans, and two spirit people to receive equal and adequate reporting and efforts from justice systems. While my chapter in the #MeToo and Literary Studies collection mentioned the hashtag #MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women), it is also important to amplify #MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls) and #MMIR (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives) as additional and intersectional hashtags—backed by activist movements—that include violence inflicted upon children, trans, non-binary, and two spirit Indigenous people in these conversations.

Since I wrote my chapter, President Biden was inaugurated as the forty-sixth president of the United States. Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) was appointed as Secretary of the Department of Interior, a historic moment, becoming the first Native American member of Cabinet. Mass graves of boarding and residential schools have been discovered and excavated in the United States and Canada, and the remains of innocent Indigenous children murdered by the United States federal government and Christian churches (who established, funded, and ran these so-called schools) have been returned to their tribes. COVID-19 has ravaged Native American tribal communities, claiming elders, and with them vestiges of traditional knowledge and Native languages. With stay-at-home orders in place, reports show that violence against Indigenous women only increased, as some were trapped at home with their abusers. Some positive steps that have been taken under the Biden Administration include revoking the Keystone XL Pipeline permit, which will help decrease “man camps” of non-Indigenous men in Indigenous communities along with new funding designated to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women taskforce that will increase support staff and offices for solving cases. 

As I write in my chapter and once again note, Indigenous women and relatives have been disproportionate victims of violence long before the #MeToo movement, and Indigenous activists have plead for dominant culture to recognize and amend this horror as they worked—and continue to work—to undo the influence of Western patriarchal violence that infects their tribes. These hashtags are not trends; they strive to amplify the centuries-long violence that systematic western patriarchal toxicity and rape culture have inflicted upon Indigenous peoples in global and digital forums. Continued media representation, activist movements, art and literature, and legislation are all crucial in addressing this intersectional problem.

Kasey Jones-Matrona is a doctoral candidate and graduate teaching
assistant at the University of Oklahoma in Literary and Cultural
Studies. Kasey is a settler scholar and her research areas include
Native American literature, Indigenous futurisms, and Indigenous
feminisms. She is currently working on her dissertation on
Indigenous futurisms which places a range of texts from Native
American speculative fiction novels, video poems, and cultural
center museum exhibits in conversation with one another in order
to examine how Indigenous-authored texts and sites create new
worlds and audiences, and thus, Indigenous pasts, presents, and
futures.

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